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Compensation to crime victims - Belgium

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This page contains a statement of the legislation that will come into force on 1st January 2004 but which will also apply from that date to petitions that have been previously introduced (pending before the Commission for aid to victims of deliberate acts of violence).

To consult the current state of legislation, see the “Service Public Fédéral JUSTICE” Deutsch - français - Nederlands website:

a) Choose the French or Dutch language;

b) Select the heading "Consolidated legislation" ("Geconsolideerde wetgeving") ;

c) Fill in the headings as follows:

Legal type: ACT

Date of promulgation: 1985-08-01

Date of publication: 1985-08-06

Department: PRIME MINISTER.

See also the "Information" heading, "Justice from A to Z" (see in particular “Victim of a criminal offence" (pdf 184 kb) and "Financial assistance to victims of deliberate acts of violence").

See also “Commission for aid to victims of deliberate acts of violence".



 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Obtaining compensation in the form of damages from the offender 1.
1.1. Under which conditions can I make a claim for damages in the trial against the offender (the criminal proceedings) ? 1.1.
1.2. At which moment of the procedure should I put forward the claim? 1.2.
1.3. How should I put forward the claim, and to whom? 1.3.
1.4. How should I present my claim (indicate a total amount and/or specify the individual losses) ? 1.4.
1.5. Can I get legal assistance before and/or during the proceedings? 1.5.
1.6. What evidence will I be required to present in support of my claim? 1.6.
1.7. If I am awarded damages by the court, is there any special assistance available to me as a crime victim for the enforcement of the judgment against the offender? 1.7.
2. Obtaining compensation from the state or by a public body. 2.
2.1. Is it possible to obtain compensation from the State or by a public body? 2.1.
2.2. Is the possibility limited to victims that have suffered certain types of crime? 2.2.
2.3. Is the possibility limited to victims that have suffered certain types of injury? 2.3.
2.4. Can relatives or dependents of victims that have died as a result of the crime obtain compensation? 2.4.
2.5. Is the possibility of obtaining compensation limited to persons of a certain nationality or persons residing in a certain country? 2.5.
2.6. Can I apply for compensation from Belgium if the crime was committed in another country? If yes, under what conditions? 2.6.
2.7. Is it necessary to have reported the crime to the police? 2.7.
2.8. Is it necessary to await the outcome of any police investigations or criminal proceedings before I can apply? 2.8.
2.9. If the offender has been identified, is it necessary to first try get compensation from the offender? 2.9.
2.10. If the offender has not been identified or convicted, is it still possible to qualify for compensation? If so, what evidence do I need to supply in support of my application? 2.10.
2.11. Is there a time limit for making the application for compensation? 2.11.
2.12. For which losses can I be compensated? 2.12.
2.13. How will the compensation be calculated? 2.13.
2.14. Is there a minimum and/or maximum amount that can be awarded? 2.14.
2.15. Will compensation that I have received, or can receive, for the same losses but from other sources (such as insurance) be deducted from the compensation from the state? 2.15.
2.16. Are there other criteria that may influence my chance of receiving compensation, or how the amount of compensation is calculated, such as my own behaviour in relation to the event that caused the injury? 2.16.
2.17. Can I get an advance on compensation? If yes, under what conditions? 2.17.
2.18. Where can I get the necessary forms and further information on how to apply? Is there a special help line or website that I can use? 2.18.
2.19. Can I get legal assistance for making the application? 2.19.
2.20. Where do I send the petition? 2.20.
2.21. Are there any victim support organisations that can give further assistance? 2.21.

 

General comment: In Belgian law, compensation must be paid by the person who committed the crime. If he does not meet this obligation, compensation may be obtained by taking legal action in the law courts (judicial power). The system described in this information sheet constitutes an aid offered or provided by the Government (executive power).

1. Obtaining compensation in the form of damages from the offender

1.1. Under which conditions can I make a claim for damages in the trial against the offender (the criminal proceedings) ?

The victim of an offence who wishes to obtain compensation from the criminal court for the damage suffered must formerly declare himself to be a plaintiff. This formality is known as “filing a civil action”. A complaint to the legal or police authorities is not sufficient.

Two procedures are available to an injured party: filing an action and filing an intervention.

Filing an action, which triggers a prosecution, can be done in two distinct ways: by filing a civil action with the examining magistrate (Sections 66 to 70 of the Criminal Investigation Regulations) and by direct summons (Sections 64(2) , 145, 182 and 183 of the Criminal Investigation Code).

Filing an intervention is the most common and least costly procedure. The victim intervenes in the proceedings already instituted by the public prosecutor.

1.2. At which moment of the procedure should I put forward the claim?

Actions are filed before the case has been referred to the judge of the merits. The victim has received from the law the power to institute a public action to refer his civil action to the legal authorities without being answerable to the public prosecutor.

An intervention is filed after the case has been referred to the judge of the merits. It may be accepted from when the public action has begun until the proceedings before the judge of the merits ruling in the first instance have been closed (Section 67 of the Criminal Investigation Regulations).

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1.3. How should I put forward the claim, and to whom?

As its name suggests, the civil action filed with the examining magistrate is instituted before the examining magistrate, whether or not the latter has had the investigation referred to him. The complaint with a view to filing civil action does not have to be made in a specific form. The examining magistrate acknowledges it in a report. However, the civil action must contain an accurate description of the reasons for which it is being filed. Where the prosecution is set in motion by the filing of a civil action, the latter must deposit the sum deemed necessary for covering the costs of the proceedings with the Clerk of the Court.

With regard to the direct summons, the injured party arranges for a bailiff to deliver a summons to appear before the magistrates’ or police court, depending on the rules of competence and keeping within appearance deadlines. The summons sets out the charges. In certain cases a summons is not possible (political and press crimes and offences, Appeal Court, juvenile court).

The intervention is filed before the trial judge. It is free of charge and may be carried out orally.

With regard to filing an intervention, it should be noted that, before the police court and the magistrates’ court, when a prosecution is brought by notification via a report (Sections 216quater and 216quinquies of the Criminal Investigation Code) , the injured party may refer the matter to the criminal courts by lodging a petition with the Clerk of the Court (Section 4 of the Preliminary Heading of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

1.4. How should I present my claim (indicate a total amount and/or specify the individual losses) ?

The petition should give details of specific loss sustained. The petition may be added to during the proceedings.

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1.5. Can I get legal assistance before and/or during the proceedings?

See "Legal aid - Belgium".

1.6. What evidence will I be required to present in support of my claim?

Any legal means may be presented to prove the extent of the damage and the causal link between the offence and the damage.

1.7. If I am awarded damages by the court, is there any special assistance available to me as a crime victim for the enforcement of the judgment against the offender?

There is no special assistance for victims of crime in enforcing the ruling against the person who committed the offence. However, if the victim’s financial resources do not allow them to cover the costs linked to the actions relating to the enforcement of rulings and orders, they may benefit from legal aid (Section 665 of the Judicial Code) (see "Legal aid – Belgium").

2. Obtaining compensation from the state or by a public body.

2.1. Is it possible to obtain compensation from the State or by a public body?

It is possible to obtain compensation from the commission for financial aid for victims of deliberate acts of violence.

The law applied is chapter III, section II, "State aid for victims of deliberate acts of violence", of the Act of 1 August 1985 concerning tax and other measures, hereinafter “the Act”.

2.2. Is the possibility limited to victims that have suffered certain types of crime?

The possibility of compensation is limited to individuals who have suffered a deliberate act of violence. In theory, this refers to deliberate crimes. The commission is, however, free in its interpretation of the notion of “deliberate act of violence” (Section 31(1) of the Act).

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2.3. Is the possibility limited to victims that have suffered certain types of injury?

The possibility is limited to victims who have suffered significant physical or mental harm (Section 31(1) of the Act).

The following may also ask for assistance:

  • the father and mother of a minor or individuals who are responsible for a minor who, following a deliberate act of violence, needs long-term medical treatment or therapy (Section 31(3) of the Act) and the relatives up to second degree of a victim or the relatives who were living in a lasting family relationship with a victim who has disappeared for over a year, where it is accepted that the disappearance is most likely due to a deliberate act of violence (Section 31(4) of the Act).

Where the damage becomes manifestly more serious after assistance has been given, the commission may grant further assistance (Section 37 of the Act).

2.4. Can relatives or dependents of victims that have died as a result of the crime obtain compensation?

The close relatives and individuals who were living in a lasting family relationship with a person whose death is the direct result of an act of violence may obtain assistance (Section 31(2) of the Act).

2.5. Is the possibility of obtaining compensation limited to persons of a certain nationality or persons residing in a certain country?

Assistance is not limited to people of a certain nationality or to people resident in a certain country. However, the victim must, when the act of violence is committed, be of Belgian nationality or have the right to enter, stay in and settle in the Kingdom (Section 31b(2) of the Act).

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Exception: victims who, when the act of violence is committed, are in the Kingdom illegally but who are subsequently granted an unlimited residence permit by the Immigration Office as part of an investigation into the trade in human beings may obtain assistance (Section 31b, 2, of the Act).

2.6. Can I apply for compensation from Belgium if the crime was committed in another country? If yes, under what conditions?

To obtain assistance, the act of violence must have been committed in Belgium (Section 31b(1) of the Act).

Exception: where the act of violence is committed abroad, certain individuals serving abroad may receive assistance (Section 31b(1) , of the Act). These individuals are members of:

1. the police services,

2. external services of the “State Security” department,

3. the armed forces and civilian staff in the Federal Defence Department,

4. the civil protection services,

5. the fire services,

6. the external services of the Punishment Enforcement Office.

2.7. Is it necessary to have reported the crime to the police?

You do not have to report the offence to the police to obtain assistance (exceptions: see points 2. 10 and 2. 17).

2.8. Is it necessary to await the outcome of any police investigations or criminal proceedings before I can apply?

Two possibilities are considered (Section 31b(3) of the Act) :

  • If the offender is known, assistance may only be granted after a final decision has been taken on public action.
  • Where the offender remains unknown, assistance may only be granted after the case has been closed. Exception: On the expiry of a period of one year, commencing on the date of the filing of a civil action, assistance may be granted even without the case being closed.
2.9. If the offender has been identified, is it necessary to first try get compensation from the offender?

If the offender has been identified, the victim must try to obtain compensation for his/her prejudice. Proof that the petitioner has filed a civil action, sent a direct summons or instituted proceedings before a civil court must be supplied in support of a petition. (Section 31b(3) of the Act).

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2.10. If the offender has not been identified or convicted, is it still possible to qualify for compensation? If so, what evidence do I need to supply in support of my application?

If the offender has not been identified, it is possible to obtain assistance (Section 31b(3) (2) of the Act). Proof must be supplied to show that the petitioner has filed a civil action (Section 31b(3) (1) of the Act).

The commission may consider, however, that it is sufficient for the petitioner to lodge a complaint or qualify as an injured party (Section 31b(3) (2) of the Act).

2.11. Is there a time limit for making the application for compensation?

The petition must be instituted within three years. Depending on the case, the period begins with the first ruling to close the case, the ruling from the examining jurisdiction, from the day on which a final decision was taken to institute public proceedings or from the day from which a ruling on civil interests intervened after the decision to institute public proceedings (Section 31b(4) of the Act).

On pain of debarment, the petition requesting the granting of further aid is instituted within ten years of the day on which the assistance was paid (Section 37 of the Act).

2.12. For which losses can I be compensated?

The commission rules exclusively on the following elements of the damage suffered (Section 32(1) of the Act) :

1. mental damage, taking account of temporary or permanent disability;

2. medical and hospitalisation expenses, including prosthesis expenses;

3. temporary or permanent disability;

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4. loss or reduction of earnings resulting from temporary or permanent inability to work;

5. cosmetic damage;

6. legal costs up to 4,000 euros;

7. material expenses up to 1,250 euros;

8. damage arising from the loss of one or more years of schooling.

In granting assistance to the close relatives of a deceased victim, the commission rules exclusively on the following elements of the damage suffered (Section 32(2) of the Act) :

a) mental damage;

b) medical and hospitalisation expenses;

c) the loss of allowances for individuals who, at the time when the victim died, were dependent on him/her;

d) funeral expenses up to 2,000 euros;

e) legal costs up to 4,000 euros;

f) damage arising from the loss of one or more years of schooling.

In granting assistance to individuals who are responsible for a child who, as a result of a deliberate act of violence, needs long-term medical or therapeutic treatment and to the parents of a victim who has disappeared, the commission rules exclusively on the following elements of the damage suffered (Section 32, § 3, of the Act) :

(i) mental damage;

(ii) medical and hospitalisation expenses;

(iii) legal costs up to 4,000 euros.

2.13. How will the compensation be calculated?

The amount of the assistance is equitably fixed by a commission chamber made up of three members, whose Chairman is a magistrate (Section 33(1) (1) of the Act).

2.14. Is there a minimum and/or maximum amount that can be awarded?

The minimum amount that may be granted is 500 euros. The maximum amount is 62,000 euros. (Section 33(2) of the Act).

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The amount of supplementary assistance is limited to 62,000 euros, less the assistance already granted (Section 37 of the Act).

2.15. Will compensation that I have received, or can receive, for the same losses but from other sources (such as insurance) be deducted from the compensation from the state?

The compensation that the victim has received or may receive for the same prejudices but coming from other sources will be deducted from the assistance granted (Section 31b(5) of the Act).

2.16. Are there other criteria that may influence my chance of receiving compensation, or how the amount of compensation is calculated, such as my own behaviour in relation to the event that caused the injury?

The commission may take into special consideration (Section 33(1) section 2, of the Act) :

  • the behaviour of the petitioner where this contributed directly or indirectly to the carrying out or aggravation of the offence.
  • the relationship between the petitioner and the offender.
2.17. Can I get an advance on compensation? If yes, under what conditions?

The commission may grant emergency assistance where any delay in the granting of assistance may cause the petitioner significant prejudice in the light of his financial situation (Section 36(1) of the Act).

A petition requesting emergency assistance may be instituted as soon as the petitioner has lodged a complaint or instituted a civil action (Section 36(3) of the Act).

Emergency assistance is granted by case and by petitioner for damage exceeding 500 euros and will be limited to a total of 15,000 euros (Section 36, section 2, of the Act).

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2.18. Where can I get the necessary forms and further information on how to apply? Is there a special help line or website that I can use?

The necessary forms and further information about the procedure to follow to institute the petition may be obtained from:

La Commission pour l'aide financière aux victims d’actes intentionnelles de violence

Postal address: Boulevard de Waterloo/Waterloolaan 115, 1000 Bruxelles/Brussel

Offices: Avenue de la Porte de Hal/Hallepoortlaan 5-8, 1060 Bruxelles/Brussel

Telephone (French) : +32 (0) 2 542 08 or +32 (0) 2 542 72 44;

Telephone (Dutch) : +32 (0) 2 542 72 18, +32 (0) 2 542 72 24 or +32 (0) 2 542 72 29

Fax: +32 (0) 2 542 72 40;

Opening hours: every working day from 9. 00 to 11. 45 and 14. 00 to 16. 30.

2.19. Can I get legal assistance for making the application?

It is possible to obtain legal aid to institute the petition (see "Legal aid - Belgium").

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Proceedings before the commission are free.

The victim does not have to be present at the hearing, nor does he have to be represented by a lawyer.

The victim may be assisted by the representative of a public body or association approved for such purposes (see point 2. 21).

2.20. Where do I send the petition?

Requests for legal aid, emergency assistance or supplementary assistance must be lodged in duplicate at the commission secretariat or sent to it by registered letter.

Postal address: Boulevard de Waterloo 115, 1000 Bruxelles;

Offices: Avenue de la Porte de Hal 5-8, 1060 Bruxelles;

Opening hours: every working day from 9. 00 to 11. 45 and 14. 00 to 16. 30.

2.21. Are there any victim support organisations that can give further assistance?

In Belgium, the policy in favour of victims involves a number of different groups.

The police services provide what is called police assistance to victims, especially by procuring the necessary information.

Legal assistants, members of the staff of the Legal Advice Centres Department assist competent magistrates in guiding individuals involved in legal proceedings.

Victim support services provide psychological and individual social support to victims and their relatives. These associations may also assist victims before the commission for financial assistance to victims. You can obtain the addresses of these services from:

1. “Service public fédéral Justice” (Boulevard de Waterloo 115, 1000 Bruxelles, +32 (0) 2 542 65 11) ,

2. Legal Advice Centres,

3. Police services,

4. HUY victim support service (Rue Rioul 22-24, 4500 HUY, +32 (0) 85 21 65 65) for the French-speaking part of the country,

5. Steunpunt Algemeen Welzijnswerk, Afdeling slachtofferhulp (Diksmuidelaan 50, 2600 BERCHEM, +32 (0) 3 366 15 40) for the Dutch-speaking part of the country,

6. or see the brochure "Your rights as a victim of offences".

Further information

  • Are there other options for obtaining compensation from the person who committed the crime?

The Royal Prosecutor may decide not to prosecute the suspect if the latter meets certain conditions. The first condition to which the offender must submit, which is of direct interest to the victim, is compensation or reparation for the damage. These particular procedure is known as criminal mediation. It may only be used for offences for which the Royal Prosecutor does not consider petitioning for more than two years’ imprisonment (Section 216ter of the Criminal Investigation Code). The procedure takes place before the public prosecutor’s office magistrate responsible for criminal mediation. The offender and the victim must reach an agreement on compensation. The agreement is drawn up in a report. If the offender does not fully comply with the conditions set, the victim may institute civil action for damages in the civil courts or file for civil action.

  • Is it possible to read the rulings of the commission for financial aid to victims of deliberate acts of violence?

It is possible to read the case law for the Commission for financial aid on the Service public fédéral Justice Deutsch - français - Nederlands website.

  • Is it possible to consult the legislation governing financial aid to victims?

The law applied is chapter III, section II of the Act of 1 August 1985 concerning tax and other measures. The legislation may be consulted on the Service public fédéral Justice Deutsch - français - Nederlands website:

- Choose the French or Dutch languages,

- Select the “Consolidated legislation” heading ("Geconsolideerde wetgeving"),

- Fill in the headings as follows:

Ä Legal type: ACT

Ä Date of promulgation: 1985-08-01

Ä Date of publication: 1985-08-06

Ä Department: PRIME MINISTER.

- Read Sections 28 to 41 of the Act.

« Compensation to crime victims - General information | Belgium - General information »

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Last update: 16-10-2006

 
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